Yesterday was the last day of the school year. What a year it has been. The main thing to note is how quickly it has gone.
The big thing about this academic year was my baby started school. He was so desperate to start, and it turned into a total anti climax for him. The first couple of weeks they just went in part-time, and were introduced to learning in a way that meant they didn’t actually realise it. For most children, I’m sure this works really well, but for D is was difficult. He had closed the mental door on the area that was nursery and play, and was ready to rush head long into the world of proper education. He was very disappointed that he didn’t have a pile of work to do on day one! I’m not sure if he was expecting to be mastering long division by break time, or what, but he was frustrated he didn’t think his sponge was absorbing much. As the days and weeks progressed, he began to enjoy learning, but his frustration was very close to the surface as he went over things he already knew.
His teacher seems pleased with his progress and every time he went up a stage in reading he has been over the moon. He finally arrive at a level that seemed to be stretching him about a month ago, and at that point he began to get very angry with it, but he himself admits he had found it very easy, if not boring up to that point. He would never let his teacher see he felt this way, which is maybe why it occurred.
I am very proud of him that at the end of year meeting his teacher said that despite our warnings of potential behavioural problems, she has only seen a hard-working, well-behaved little boy. I hope this opinion of him continues as while it might help for the staff at the school to see his darker side, it helps his self esteem that they don’t know this side of him. We on the other hand have seen some very difficult times. After his diagnosis in November, we were able to understand where the behaviour was coming from, but that made it no easier to handle. The abuse, both physical and verbal, is horribly upsetting, but at least he locks the need to do it away until he reaches the safety of his home environment. He comes out of his episodes both physically and mentally drained, and my job is to help him return “normality” (not really the word I want, but I trust you understand what I mean) as effortlessly as possible.
Going to school every day has seen him change in personality. He shrinks as we approach the school, as he dons the persona he believes he is expected to carry.
He is a clever wee man, and if he had the confidence to speak out, I am sure he would enjoy the experience far more. He has found the ability to speak out on topics he finds interesting, like when he found some birds eggs, or the wasp’s nest, but on more mundane things, like not having a straw for his drink at sports day, he keeps tight-lipped. He says he loves his teacher, which I believe he does, but he also admits he finds authority figure difficult to approach. This is no fault of theirs, it is just the way his mind works.
He has come a long way this year, and I’m sure he will continue to blossom as he moves into P2.
M’s school year has been filled with upset.
He started the year in one class, only to have his teacher leave just before Christmas. Through that term he suffered at the hands of constant niggling bullying. He was at the stage where he was physically making himself vomit, so he didn’t have to go to school. In the new year, he took things into his own hands, and attacked the bully. Something he got into trouble for both at school and at home. We have never allowed either of our boys off with bad behaviour just because of their diagnosis. We could however understand why he felt the need to do it, as he felt nobody was taking his problems seriously. As a result of this he was moved class, and had teacher number 4 for the year. The reason for the move might not have been the best, but the result was. He found a teacher he loved, and who seemed to understand him. Suddenly he wanted to be at school, and he wanted to be learning, something we had not seen until this point. All was going well for him, that was until it was announced this teacher was leaving. Instantly M switched off, even though he still had a few more weeks with her.
It is no surprise really that M doesn’t trust adults when he has had the constant turn around of teachers. For a neuro typical child the constant change of personnel would be unsettling but for a child with autism it has led to confusion and sleepless nights. M has real difficulty letting adults into his inner chamber ordinarily and I think he felt the need to build his wall higher to protect himself, shutting off almost completely for a while.
Teacher 4 stayed until #5 started. M of course was too ill to go to school on her first day, but I sent him in any way! Within a week, he had let her in. It was amazing to see how easily she had won M over. It was even more shocking when we met with her and her open honesty when she told us she had not had experience with autism, so she was on a learning curve with M. It was hard to believe as M had bonded with her with such ease. On the other hand, it may be she has taken up the gauntlet of teaching M with an open mind, and that is showing. She has taken no-nonsense from him, and we have had conversations about unacceptable behaviour, but she is also wanting to learn about what makes him tick. The best news is that the school recognise he has been unsettled and he will stay with the same teacher going into the next session. She has instigated a IEP (Individual educational plan) to help, her, us and of course M understand standards that are expected of him.
I feel that after a really bad start to the year, he has landed on his feet with a teacher he cares about, and who seems interested enough to learn the best ways of getting a positive response from him. He bids fair well to the infants end of the school on a positive note, which we hope continues into his junior years.
I am proud of his academic achievements this year, as from what we can gather he is achieving at a satisfactory level. I just hope he can maintain his enthusiasm come August.
Both boys have had trying years for one reason or another, but have both grown as human beings in a positive way. They are lovely boys and I hope this time next year I am able to update you on another positive time.